The #1 Steak You Should Never Order, According to Chefs
Dining at a classic steakhouse is as all-American as apple pie and fireworks, but there's a right way and a wrong way to indulge in the meaty pastime. While dining at a steakhouse known for high-quality beef is always a good starting point, and some classic dishes are tried-and-true traditions, there are certainly some no-nos involved when it comes to enjoying a quintessential steakhouse experience.
Just as there are certain dishes to avoid ordering at places like delis and seafood restaurants, and specific entrees and desserts that are typically deemed forgettable, the same applies to the steakhouse menu. Aside from the obvious taboo of well-done steak, chefs have a lot of opinions about this genre of dining—as vocal as they are about what you should order at a steakhouse, they're just as adamant about what to avoid. And by and large, that consensus is about skipping the frivolous extras—including not over-ordering—and honing in on the specialty dishes and cuts of the house.
Andy Knudson, executive chef of Tillie's in Dripping Springs, Texas, is extremely opinionated when it comes to steak dinners.
"Don't get me wrong, I love a great steakhouse," he says. "There is a place for them in this world! However, they are an avenue of gluttony. You buy and waste so much food!"
He says that typical steakhouse customers overload the table and overload the bill with unnecessary extras, too many drinks and appetizers, and a dessert they're already too full to tackle, with leftovers that wind up discarded. "80% of the time people are on a company dinner and traveling, so from there it ends up in the trash—what a waste!"
He offers some specific pointers for what—and how—to order at a steakhouse instead. This includes having sharing appetizers, only ordering what you can eat ("don't let your eyes be bigger than your tummy!"), sharing a 40-oz. steak for the table, and skipping dessert ("you might hurt the pastry chef's feelings, but you will thank me later").
Knudson says his standard steakhouse protocol for a table of four is a round of wet martinis, requisite appetizers—like shrimp cocktail and Caesar salad—and the wines that each person wants. He suggests having some Fernet after appetizers ("you will thank me later!"), opting for a dry-aged rib-eye and bone-in filet ("keep the meat under three pounds"), sharing three sides, and one dessert for the table, if you must. "At the end of the day, just be responsible and don't WASTE FOOD!"
Speaking of a wasteful order, it helps to stick to the classics that the steakhouse does well. This means eschewing non-specialty items, like fish and pasta, for properly cooked cuts of beef.
"Never order fish at a steakhouse," suggests Jeremy Shigekane, executive chef of 100 Sails & Bar at the Prince Waikiki Hotel in Honolulu. "Just like with sushi, I believe in sticking to what the restaurant does best." He suggests ordering "off" cuts, like hangar steak. "If not, rib-eye is always a good one. The fat-to-meat ratio is perfect for me." And on the subject of food waste, Shigekane avoids tomahawk steaks: "I'm not really into tomahawk steaks as they are too much food for me."
Similarly, Josh Mouzakes advises avoiding non-steak menu fillers. "If you find yourself at a steakhouse, do order the classics," says the executive chef of ARLO at San Diego's Town and Country Resort. "Stay away from any kind of pasta or vegan options they threw on the menu for diversity. Steakhouses are designed to grill, so eat off the grill." His order of choice? "A big char-broiled dry-aged rib-eye or NY strip with Béarnaise sauce."
In terms of particular cuts to avoid, Diana Manalang is against the filet mignon. According to the chef-owner of Little Chef Little Cafe in New York City, it's an unpopular opinion about a popular cut, but for good reason. "Yes, it is tender and juicy, but because it's so lean, it has no real flavor." If you must, however, make sure you dress it up. "Sauces are vital for this cut because its flavor is lacking in comparison to my favorite, the rib-eye. Give me all the fat; even better when it's bone-in."
Then there's the age-old adage about not ordering well-done steaks. It's an apt reminder from executive chef Eric Mickle of Salt & Fin at Harrah's Resort Southern California. "Never order a Wagyu or American-style Wagyu cut well-done," he says. "The fat content is what makes a Wagyu a Wagyu, and by overcooking that piece of beef, you are just rendering all of that beautiful flavorful fat out."
At the end of the day, the key to a successful steakhouse dinner is to avoid waste—both food waste, as well as wasting a good cut of beef by over-cooking.